Record year for California strawberries tempered by market & labor

Temperatures in the Central Coast area of California have eased in recent weeks, bringing with it much improved conditions for strawberry growers. Quality has improved and volume remains strong in Salinas and Watsonville. Overall, the state has achieved record volume this year and growers say one of the main reasons for this was the early freeze back in winter. 

"In the 10 years I have been here, I have never seen a freeze that early in the season," said James Tipton, Salinas-Watsonville District Manager for California Giant Berry Farms. "A freeze as significant as this puts so much energy and vigor back into the plant, resulting in record numbers this year unlike anything I have seen before." Tipton adds, "Volume is plentiful among our strawberry growing regions on the Central Coast – and more specifically, it has been a record volume year for the berry industry in the state of California. Not only are California Giant strawberries abundant in Salinas and Watsonville, quality has remained strong and consistent."

Market & labor stemming potential
Although volume and quality are very good at this time, the market has been mixed throughout, only stabilizing somewhat in the last few weeks. Demand is expected to pick up ahead of the Labor Day holiday in early September, along with the hope of better prices. "The market continues to fluctuate industry-wide, but we foresee demand picking up in movement over the next week or two as the Labor Day holiday approaches," adds Morgan Maitoza of California Giant. "Our summer planted Santa Maria strawberry crop is also kicking off soon, which will continue to add volume to the industry as the market hopefully ramps up."

The Santa Maria crop will steadily take over as Salinas-Watsonville begin to slow for the year, as their season typically finishes up in October. Organic strawberry volume also remains strong, although the market has also not been too kind for the organic category this year either. "It is most common for the season to end along the Central Coast during the month of October before any forecast rainfall," Maitoza shared. "Volume among organic strawberries is plentiful just as with our conventional berries. Similarly to our conventional fruit, supply is abundant but the market has proven to be tough this year."

Another tough challenge for growers in Salinas-Watsonville is the perpetual problem of labor shortages and Tipton said the situation is no different now. "The biggest concern we continue to face industry-wide is labor, which continues to get more difficult as the weeks go by," he observed. "Most field personnel are showing up one part of the week, and blocks are getting left behind. This battle with labor continues to be an industry-wide fought battle that unfailingly appears most consistently during the summer months."

Raspberries to go all year for California Giant
Aside from the quality of its strawberries, California Giant Berry Farms are pleased to share that its raspberry program will be going year round. The new plantings in Mexico are due to mature in time for the winter season when the northern crops finish. This means that the company now has a year-round program on all four major berry types.

"We are looking forward to offering our customers our first ever year-round supply of raspberries this year with our new Mexico raspberry program," Maitoza explained. "The Adelita variety offers a large, firm raspberry presented by Planasa, that was planted during the spring-summer season this year, and will be ready for harvest this coming fall through the spring until our California crop comes in, offering year-round supply of not only raspberries, but all four berry types – raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries."

For more information:
Morgan Maitoza 
California Giant Berry Farms
Tel: +1 (831) 728-1773

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